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Taking a Break

Hey, friends!  With all the craziness that is happening in my life at the moment, I've got to take a break.  I've tried to keep up with my social posts and blogging, but I keep falling behind.

I won't be away for long.  I just have to get things in order!  Now would be a great time to get caught up on some other reading. :)

Off Kilter

This week marks the third week I’ve been at my new job, and I’m still trying to get a schedule down. It doesn’t help that I took a trip to Nebraska over the weekend or that I had a presentation 3 hours away on Tuesday. I’m not complaining about either of those—they were fun—but they’ve thrown me off.

For those who know me, I thrive on a schedule. It gives me a sense of control and helps ease my anxiety. I can be flexible if I need to be, but it’s not exactly natural for me. I like to have a schedule so I can get my work (whatever it may be) done in a timely manner. Deadlines are a source of stress for me—even self-imposed ones that I can move if I really want.

This week has definitely been a challenge, and I’ve apparently been a little stressed out. I’ve had nightmares twice this week and I haven’t been sleeping well. In addition, I haven’t been writing. I feel out of sorts, unable to focus, and completely overwhelmed.

Things will settle down soon (I hope), and I’ll get back on track. I just need my schedule back…

So, as I mentioned in the first paragraph, I took a few trips this past week, and I tried something a little different: I downloaded some audiobooks. I always think about doing that, but then I totally forget when the times comes. Well, this time I made sure I remembered. I’ve listened to audiobooks before, just not in the car.

Here are the books I “read”:

I have been reminded why my boys like to be read to. It’s nice to be surrounded by the words and drawn into the story by the narrator’s voice. It’s also nice to be able to get through so many books in such a short amount of time.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love holding a book in my hand and reading in my mind, but it is a treat to listen to a book too—especially if the narrator is good. It’s really nice to listen to books when I’m in the car because it keeps me awake and gives me something to do.

What are your thoughts on audiobooks or schedules?

What is a “beta reader”?

There are a variety of steps when it comes to writing, and depending on the author and the story, it can take hours to years before that story is complete. The first step, of course, is the writing phase, which consists of putting words on the page. After that comes editing, which can go through multiple drafts and versions.

Once the author has finished editing the story and has it at a place that they are fairly content with how it reads, it may be sent to a professional editor, or it might be sent to beta readers—it depends on what the author wants to do. Beta readers, like editors, will read the story and look for ways to improve it. They may look for plot holes or character mistakes or issues with grammar and punctuation, but unlike an editor, they might not be professionally trained.

Beta readers are an important step in the writing process because they help the author perfect the story before it is published. For me, most of my beta readers are individuals who have read my work before and know what to expect, and I trust that they will let me know if something has gone awry in the story. Beta readers are important because as readers, they have insight into stories that reflect what the reading public wants to see. Editors have that ability too, but I trust editors and beta readers for different reasons.

How does one become a beta reader? Well, I don’t think there’s any trick to it. I chose my beta readers because they are dedicated fans and have read all (or the vast majority) of my work. Beta readers can also be reviewers (I have one who is). It just depends on what the author is looking for.

The most important part about being a beta reader is having constructive criticism and getting back to the author in a timely fashion. We’re all busy people, I totally understand that, but remember that the author is biting her nails waiting for you to get back to her with suggestions on how to improve the story. And the way to do that is to tell the author what you liked best about the story, what was confusing or unclear, and perhaps suggest ways to improve it.

The author may not take all of your advice or suggestions for the next round of editing, but I speak from experience when I say we deeply appreciate the time you took to read it and comment. For me, if the reader doesn’t understand what I’m trying to say in my story, then I’ve failed. I want the reader to enjoy what I’ve written and be inspired and/or moved by it.

The relationship between the author and beta reader is a close one. It involves lots and lots of questions and a little bit of nerves. You’re seeing work that probably isn’t close to perfect, so the author might be afraid of how you’re going to react. But the goal is to find ways to improve the story and make it better, and it’s a big responsibility to be part of that process.

Are any of you beta readers? What has been your experience with the process or author relationship?

What the What?! The Numbers Are Going Down?

You know you can’t help it. You know you keep track of how many followers and friends you have on social sites, and you know when they go up and when they go down. And when they go down, all you can think is: oh, my gosh! What did I do?

When you’re an author and you have a newsletter, that obsession with numbers becomes even bigger—especially when you get an email that specifically tells you how many subscribers and unsubscribers you have.

How do I know this? Because I’m guilty of it. I watch the numbers on my various social sites and I get the emails that tell me how many people have subscribed or unsubscribed to my newsletter. But I don’t let it get me down.

I’m sure that it should bother me when people quit following me or don’t want to read my newsletter any longer. After all, the more people following me, the more potential readers I have and the more opportunity I have that they’ll buy some of my books. More followers means a bigger audience.

The reason it doesn’t bother me is because I don’t let it bother me. I could spend a good portion of my day wondering what I did wrong to make someone stop following me and trying to figure out ways to get them back, but I just don’t have the time. And maybe they don’t have time either. Maybe their day is chalked full of happenings and they don’t have time to read my tweets or my Facebook page or my newsletter. And that’s totally okay.

Throughout the day, we all have to pick and choose what we’re going to expend our energy on. I only have so much, so I choose not to worry about why someone stopped following me. It makes me a little sad, but at the same time, I only wish them the best.

I consider myself incredibly lucky to have the friends and fans that follow me, and I look forward to adding more in the future. Hell, maybe I’ll even win a few deserters back. There will always be those who stop following me for one reason or another, and that’s fine. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing because that’s what I have the energy for.

Things Are Looking Up

Last week ended on a high note. I finally got another job, which I start next Monday. It’s not a stay-at-home position I was hoping for, but it will pay the bills. The boys and I have made me being in an office work before, we can certainly do it again.

I received word that Life After the Undead is a finalist in the Wishing Shelf Awards. That was pretty exciting, and it made me feel fantastic! I’m looking forward to the feedback I get from the kids. I can’t wait to see what they liked/disliked about the book. After all, readers are the reason I write.

Speaking of readers, I received the ARC copy of Humanity’s Hope over the weekend. I’m currently looking for reviewers, so if anyone is interested, please shoot me a message.

I’ve been making progress on Edge of Humanity. There’s still a lot to do, but it’s getting closer. I’ve had some ideas pop into my head for some new stories, but I told them they had to go away. I already have a list of projects I need to work on.

I’ve been struggling quite a bit these last few months, but it’s nice to feel like there’s finally a light at the end of the tunnel. I knew the bad times wouldn’t last forever, but when I was in the middle of them, they dragged me down quite a bit. My schedule is going to change, but I’ll learn to adapt.

All in all, I’m looking forward to the new adventure that will be my life. Normally, I’m a planner and I like to have things laid out in front of me, but that hasn’t seemed to be working out so well. Now, I’m just going to see where I go. There’s a sense of freedom in that decision—and a lot of fear that I’m trying to overcome. I’ll let you know how things go.